Twenty five years in the skate business is a huge milestone and one that doesn’t go unrecognized. Founded back in 1987 by professional skater Steve Rocco, and supported in the early years by the likes of Rodney Mullen, Mike Vallely, and Frank Messman, World Industries has helped shape the way people think about skateboarding. The brand has evolved over the years, and changed hands several times before landing in a comfortable spot with i.e. Distribution, which has helped World return to its roots and support its core retailers.
Today, the company is headed up by a solid team of industry veterans including President Scott Chantos, Director of Specialty and Core Sales Beau Brown, and Production Coordinator Charlie Thomas. The quarter century mark is being ushered in this year by paying tribute to those athletes who have helped build the brand from the ground up. A series of reissued board graphics are being re-introduced and several new controversial graphics have been unveiled, the most recent of which pokes fun at the Pope’s retirement. World is also reinforcing its recent decision to turn Flame Boy Vs. Wet Willy into its own brand, separate from the World umbrella.
We caught up with World’s Director of Marketing R.P. Bess to hear more.
Congrats on 25 years! You mentioned you are working on rebranding World at the moment. What does this process entail, and what do you hope it will accomplish to both the public eye and within the industry as well?
We feel that 25 years is a huge accomplishment for any skate brand and who would have thought that Rocco's company would turn 25 back in 1988? We've gone through a lot of different stages over the years and in our rebranding we took time to reflect on who World is and where we came from. At the same time we wanted to create a new look that was fresh and new and relevant for the skateboarder of today. We didn't want to give them the same old World or the World that the guys my age and older remember. If that makes any sense. We want to have the brand be a brand for today's skater. A refreshed remixed World. Yes we have reissues for those die hard fans and we will take from the "good" era. But our hope is that today's World will resonate with the youth of today.
Part of this process is working on coming up with what the brand will mean to people over the next 25 years? How would you like the brand to be defined in the skateboard community in the future?
World has been that price point authentic brand to many for the last decade or more. It was the first board to a lot of people out there. I hear that all the time. So we want to continue to hear that. We want to continue to make a great product that's price sensitive, but that's not all we are about. We want to create a meaningful connection with the consumers. We want to take the Rocco humor and apply it to the social issue of the day. We hope to poke fun at life around us. And in doing so make people think. I know it may sound deep, but believe me it's not. It's supposed to be fun. After all it's skateboarding.
In your eyes, how has World shaped skateboarding over the past quarter century?
I think I can say this because I'm relatively new to World considering it's 25, but I think World shaped the way the industry looks today. Before World you didn't see rider-owned skateboard companies. They were partners with businessmen or manufactures. I think Rocco really opened it up for skateboarders to own and run their own brands. Look at the family tree of brands that Rocco had at one time and what brands previous World riders went on to build. It's huge. World was the model that many followed to start their company. He was also one of the first to sell in the ’90s. A lot of others followed. World licensed the brand for distribution in the sporting goods distribution. Again something many other brands have now done. It's been all part of the changes that the industry has grown and learned from. We continue to make changes today. One thing we're done since we bought the brand from Dwindle five years ago was to focus more on the core and get back to the skate distribution channels. Which is a huge focus for us this year and beyond.
What’s the backstory on buying World from Dwindle five years ago?
Since the purchase from Globe/Dwindle, we have focused on building the brand back into the core market. Slow at first because it had been character-based for so long. So we had to keep that going while we brought back a team and pros and pro boards. Oh and even single decks. I think under Dwindle it was a complete skateboard only brand. When I arrived at World in March  we got our first delivery of single decks, making us not just a complete skateboard brand. In June of 2008, about a year after the acquisition, we released our first pro boards in I think it was three or four years. The team has changed and grown since then and we continue to develop more core focused products. I think 2012 saw some of the biggest changes since the acquisition in ’07.
The new owners are a group of business men that have common interests in similar businesses from footwear, action sports and so on. The most important thing is that they, the owners, have hired a management team that knows the business and they let us manage the business. This is so much more evident with the recent appointment of Scott Chantos as our new president in March of 2012. We have a great staff of skateboarders with decades of experience in the industry. From former pro skateboarders like Beau Brown, who heads up our sales, and Charlie Thomas, who handles our product development, to Colin Chestnut in footwear design and Mike Frankli,n who has been a part of the World team for years and is now our team manager, down to Cody Cahall in our in-house sales department. You’ll see the flat bar and box get pulled out for a session a few times a week. Or it’s sometimes just a slappy session. Either way we have skaters in the building and skate at heart.
Take a look at World’s Spring 2013 catalog:
What are a few examples of the reissued graphics and product you will be releasing again, and which athletes you’re working with?
We reissued four boards originally in Fall 2011: Kareem Campbell’s Mary Jane board, Randy Colvin’s Blacklight board, Jesse Martinez’s Rockem Sockem Robots, Dune’s Baby Sit graphic. Then followed up with Mike Vallely’s Barnyard board. We are also releasing Jovontae Tuner’s Napping Negro, Ron Chatman’s The Chatman Experience, Dune’s Gossamer board and a very limited run of Colvenetics. We’re looking to do more with guys like Chico Brenes and others. With 25 years of graphics we could go for days.
Why did World see the Flame Boy and Wet Willy split as necessary as part of its rebranding and repositioning? What message will this send to the consumer and the industry as a whole?
Flameboy and Wet Willy had come to define who and what World was and what age group it should fit. Internally it wasn't what we wanted for World. We looked at World as a youth brand. Flameboy and Wet Willy pulled us into the kid market. We kept being approached to do products with the two characters in mid tier and mass market. But that wasn't where we were trying to take the World brand. We feel that with Flameboy versus Wet Willy as it's own separate brand it is able to go to a broader market and be kid focused. Leaving World to focus on core and specialty in a 14-24 age demo. We hope the industry will understand that we're serious about being a core skate brand.
When did the split between World and Flameboy & Wet Willy happen, and how has it been received?
It started in March 2012 and it was official in July 2012. We no longer make products with the characters on the World brand. The split will take a little bit of getting used to. Most people still think of them as who World is. But those whoI’ve spoken to in my recent shop visits get it, and are happy to hear and see the split happen. Our licensing partners also agree this is a great thing. It allows those licensees with a broader reach to actually utilize their reach now with the characters. While in the past we were holding them at bay because we didn’t want to take the World brand down those roads. We’re hoping it’s a win win situation. We released animations of the characters on broadcast TV and digitally this past August to introduce the newly formed Flameboy vs. Wet Willy Brand.
What is World most excited about moving into the next year and beyond? What do you see as the greatest opportunities for the brand?
We're really excited to work with skate shops. To create cool, fun products that will represent our team and the brand. We're excited to be refocused on the 14-24-year-old market. We're excited to work with riders from our past and reissue some of our iconic graphics. We feel the greatest opportunities are in these areas and with the core retailers.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the skateboard industry as a whole right now?
The number of people skateboarding. We need to get the participation numbers back up. That and how to balance between core and noncore. Other products are trending right now and there are less skaters according to the numbers I've seen. So we're losing core and noncore at the same time. When skate is hot we sell to consumers outside the core which helps us to do cool stuff inside the core. With it being down it's harder to support all the stuff we want to do.
What other sorts of projects, parties, and general celebratory action can we expect from World in the coming months in honor of the big anniversary?
We'll have to just wait and see. But we'd like to celebrate our last 25 years with a look forward to the next 25 years.